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VEDANTA MASS MEDIA The Eternal Relation | Editorial | January 2015  

 

 


        Life is Relation-based

 


        We live in a world of relations. To live is to be related. The very act of birth relates us to someone - mother, father, siblings, relatives, neighbours, language and gender group, nationality and so on. And as long as we live, we interact with others based on our relations. Even though death seems to annul all our relations, we still continue to be referred to as someone who is related to so-and-so. "Relativity" thy name, life!


        We relate ourselves with others at different levels?social, financial, educational, professional, international, and so on. Whatever be the form of our relation, we need to have healthy, mature and meaningful relations and this demands understanding, sacrifice and right action. Pursuit of meaningfulness in relations has been, and is, one of the central quests of life and even more so in present times.


        Not only at the visible, mundane plane, we are ?related? at the spiritual plane too. It is relation all the way. Swami Vivekananda defined (1) religions as ?the eternal relation between the eternal soul and the eternal God?. In other words, religion is not about a temporary relation between a temporary soul and a temporary God! It is a relation based on eternal truths or entities.

 


        Two "Types" of Truths

 


        Often while speaking of "religious books", we refer to things which are of day-to-day relevance - "what to do, not to do, when not to do, how to do" and so on - set of observations, festivals, rituals and such external actions.

 

        In Sanskrit it is called achara, conduct and practices peculiar in certain places, times and situations. It is also called lokachara, deshachara and kalachara. For instance, among Hindus it is considered necessary to remove footwear before entering their temples. Or taking bath and being physically clean in order to perform worship. While these are necessary and have a definite role to play, they are not the ultimate truth of Hinduism - or in some other religion, some other such practice. These practices may be of little value in another geographically and culturally different milieu. Religion, however, is not all about achara; there is another side, a deeper side of religion, which deals with more profound issues than the external and rather "adjustable" truths of practice and rituals. Says Swami Vivekananda, (2)


        There are two sorts of truth we find in our Shastras, one that is based upon the eternal nature of man - the one that deals with the eternal relation of God, soul, and nature; the other, with local circumstances, environments of the time, social institutions of the period, and so forth. The first class of truths is chiefly embodied in our Vedas, our scriptures; the second in the Smritis, the Puranas, etc. We must remember that for all periods the Vedas are the final goal and authority, and if the Puranas differ in any respect from the Vedas, that part of the Puranas is to be rejected without mercy. We find, then, that in all these Smritis the teachings are different. One Smriti says, this is the custom, and this should be the practice of this age. Another one says, this is the practice of this age, and so forth. This is the Achara which should be the custom of the Satya Yuga, and this is the Achara which should be the custom of the Kali Yuga, and so forth. Now this is one of the most glorious doctrines that you have, that eternal truths, being based upon the nature of man, will never change so long as man lives; they are for all times, omnipresent, universal virtues. But the Smritis speak generally of local circumstances, of duties arising from different environments, and they change in the course of time. This you have always to remember that because a little social custom is going to be changed you are not going to lose your religion, not at all. . .

 

        In plain words, we have first to learn the distinction between the essentials and the nonessentials in everything. The essentials are eternal, and non-essentials have value only for a certain time. . .

 

        The most important characteristic of these essentials is "the eternal relation between the eternal soul and eternal God." What is, first of all, the idea of soul and God that Swamiji speaks of?

 


        The Eternal Soul

 

        One thing, according to Vedanta, about ourselves, the human personality, is that we are not just bodies and minds but body + mind + atman. While body and mind are not eternal, the atman is. What is atman? In his famous lecture given in Lahore in December 1897, Swami Vivekananda expounded the word atman, and how it is different from body and mind, thus (3):


        I will not translate this word to you in English, because the idea does not exist in Europe; it is untranslatable. The modern attempt of German philosophers is to translate the word Atman by the word "Self", and until that word is universally accepted, it is impossible to use it. So, call it as Self or anything, it is our Atman. This Atman is the real man behind. It is the Atman that uses the material mind as its instrument, its Antahkarana, as is the psychological term for the mind.

 

        Etymologically the term Atman means that which is eternal (from the Sanskrit root word att, "that which exists always"). So, eternal soul means Atman. Is there also noneternal soul? In a way, yes, and that is called Jiva which is Atman plus body and mind (so it becomes jivatman). While Atman is never born or grows or decays and dies, in its embodied state it seems to undergo change, and the most expressive manifestation of this change is birth and death. In reality, however, Atman is the birthless, deathless, eternal core of human personality.

 


        The Eternal God

 

        What about God? Of course, God and eternity are a synonyms. Never was God born and never therefore He or She or It (in whichever way one may describe that Eternal Reality) ever dies. It is, always. Of course, what is, is not fully known, not even little known. In fact, we live surrounded by the unknown! God is infinite, much more than the sense-world that we live in.


        But this idea of God is not about an inert, inanimate source of creation! God, according to Vedanta, is of the nature of Existence, Knowledge and Bliss. Explains Swami Vivekananda ,(4)

 

        Blessedness, eternal peace, arising from perfect freedom, is the highest concept of religion underlying all the ideas of God in Vedanta - absolutely free Existence, not bound by anything, no change, no nature, nothing that can produce a change in Him. . . God is still, established upon His own majestic changeless Self. You and I try to be one with Him, but plant ourselves upon nature, upon the trifles of daily life, on money, on fame, on human love, and all these changing forms in nature which make for bondage. When nature shines, upon what depends the shining? Upon God and not upon the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars. Wherever anything shines, whether it is the light in the sun or in our own consciousness, it is He. He shining, all shines after Him.

 


        God, further, can be conceived or worshipped as a Being with form or without form. All contradictions are subsumed in the Ultimate Truth called God. He, She or It, with and without form, with and without qualities?all opposites get dissolved in the reality of God.

 

 

        The Eternal Relation

 


        Soul is eternal and so is God. While this relation is eternal, one can establish, or reestablish, this relation with God in various ways such as mother, child, beloved and so on. All these ways of relating to God are definite methods of discovering our eternal relation with God. Suppose one thinks of God as a friend? Of course there are many ways to feel related to God but let us, for illustration, take up the attitude of a friend. Swamiji says, (5) . . .God becomes our friend, the friend who is near, the friend to whom we may freely tell all the tales of our lives. The innermost secrets of our hearts we may place before Him with the great assurance of safety and support. He is the friend whom the devotee accepts as an equal.


        God is viewed here as our playmate. We may well say that we are all playing in this universe. Just as children play their games, just as the most glorious kings and emperors play their own games, so is the Beloved Lord Himself in sport with this universe. He is perfect; He does not want anything. Why should He create? Activity is always with us for the fulfilment of a certain want, and want always presupposes imperfection. God is perfect; He has no wants. Why should He go on with this work of an everactive creation? What purpose has He in view? The stories about God creating this world for some end or other that we imagine are good as stories, but not otherwise. It is all really in sport; the universe is His play going on.

 

        The whole universe must after all be a big piece of pleasing fun to Him. If you are poor, enjoy that as fun; if you are rich, enjoy the fun of being rich; if dangers come, it is also good fun; if happiness comes, there is more good fun. The world is just a playground, and we are here having good fun, having a game; and God is with us playing all the while, and we are with Him playing. God is our eternal playmate. How beautifully He is playing! The play is finished when the cycle comes to an end. There is rest for a shorter or longer time; again all come out and play. It is only when you forget that it is all play and that you are also helping in the play, it is only then that misery and sorrows come. Then the heart becomes heavy, then the world weighs upon you with tremendous power. But as soon as you give up the serious idea of reality as the characteristic of the changing incidents of the three minutes of life and know it to be but a stage on which we are playing, helping Him to play, at once misery ceases for you. He plays in every atom; He is playing when He is building up earths, and suns, and moons; He is playing with the human heart, with animals, with plants. We are His chessmen; He puts the chessmen on the board and shakes them up. He arranges us first in one way and then in another, and we are consciously or unconsciously helping in His play. And, oh, bliss! we are His playmates!"

 

        Becoming His playmates! That is religion, realising the eternal relation between the eternal soul and eternal God. But unlike all other relations of this world, this relation can never be terminated by anything. We can never terminate the eternal. God is, soul is and so too their relation is, eternal.

 

 

 

        References:

 

        1. CW, 4:209

 

        2. CW, 3.174

 

        3. CW, 3.402

 

        4. CW, 1.337

 

        5. CW, 3.95

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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